he raid that killed Osama bin Laden has become quite the political football this election season. Obama's campaign brought it up, suggesting in an ad that ordering the raid deep inside Pakistan was a bold and risky move that GOP challenger Mitt Romney would not have made. Romney countered by saying that any president, "even Jimmy Carter," would have done the same thing Obama did. Donald Rumsfeld, Defense secretary under George W. Bush, backed up Romney this week, saying that ordering the raid wasn't a "tough call." Was it really an easy decision to send in the SEALs?
It took guts: No leader takes the decision to send U.S. troops into covert combat lightly, say Sahil Kapur and Eric Lach at Talking Points Memo. Rumsfeld knows that — after all, he called off a mission in 2005 targeting Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man who has since replaced bin Laden as al Qaeda's leader, because it risked too many American lives and might have angered Pakistan. The fact that Rumsfeld held back shows "how difficult such a decision is to make."
"The hunt for Bin Laden: What exactly did Obama do?"
It was an easy call: "It is unseemly to talk about the president's 'courage,'" says The Washington Times in an editorial, when it was the special operations forces who really showed bravery during this raid. Obama risked nothing, as the mission "would have been just another of the many secret government operations kept under wraps" if it had failed. With no personal downside, the decision to approve the raid really was "a no-brainer" for Obama.
Even if it was easy, Obama deserves credit: Rumsfeld isn't necessarily being hypocritical, says Michael Crowley at TIME. The Bush administration had a policy of "largely outsourcing the hunt for al Qaeda in Pakistan to" Pervez Musharraf's army, so Rumsfeld couldn't risk angering Islamabad. But if it was easy for Obama to send the SEALs where Rumsfeld wouldn't, it was only because he had abandoned George W. Bush's "failed approach," and vowed to do the dirty work ourselves instead of counting on an unreliable ally.
"Was the bin Laden raid really 'not a tough decision'?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- Why is it so expensive to build a bridge in America?
- Why is American internet so slow?
- Here's proof that Justin Bieber is just as spoiled as you always thought
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The GOP must try to win over African-Americans
- What would a U.S.-China war look like?
Subscribe to the Week